Around the Counties: Exploring Inland Empire Arts and Culture with Ruth Nolan

Michele UrsinoPalm Springs3.jpg

This week's edition of Around the Counties, explores the art scene in the Inland Empire and features Artbound columnist Ruth Nolan who helps us take a closer look by answering a few questions.

Read on to find out which art communities are emerging in the counties of San Bernardino and Riverside, according to Nolan.

Nolan also recommends an upcoming art event that you should consider attending if you're in the area.

Ruth NolanYou grew up near the Apple Valley and now reside in Palm Desert. What's so attractive about the Inland Empire?

I really, really, dig the desert and I'm saying that from a geographic, but also cultural point of view. I think its a really incredibly unique part of the world and part of Southern California. This is my lifelong home. There's a sense that there's really a story to the landscape. Everything here is undiluted. There's more open space, and artistically and culturally, I feel that gives me a lot of freedom. I love the open space, and the intensity of the landscape and there's a strong resonance to indigenous culture and to the past, I would say. But it's also still really vivid in the present because ... memory, the memory of what has been here for centuries hasn't been all trampled and changed drastically.

What are some of your favorite art venues in the area? Why do you particularly enjoy them?

I really like Back to the Grind coffee shop in downtown Riverside. I'm drawn to it because it's completely inclusive and open. People really mix it up there (and are) from all walks of life. Everybody's so comfortable and interactive. It's also in the heart of downtown which is where most of the art scene is happening. I've also hosted a number of poetry readings and events there ... a lot of people come and read.

Back to the Grind Coffee Shop in Riverside. Photo by 1FlatWorld.

(Regarding) cultural venues out here, I like all these little music festivals the desert has. Especially the Joshua Tree Music Festival. Coachella fest isn't too bad either.

What was the last festival you attended?

Coachella fest. It was awesome. Really crowded.

The 12th annual Festival of Native Film & Culture.

In Palm Springs, it's a really small community and the film festival was really nice because there were only three or four screens. I ended up talking to people on the film festival board. I like the fact that they brought a lot of indigenous films from around the world and they organized them according to theme. There was one scene about saving mother earth... I'm really involved with Native American and desert issues right now (specifically) with the Federal Renewable Energy Policy ripping off a lot of the desert. That's becoming a really big concern in this region as well.

Scene from documentary "Off the Rez" featured in the Festival of Native Film & Culture of 2012. Film directed by Jonathan Hock.

Do you see any emerging art movements or art trends in Riverside/ San Bernardino County? What about community arts?

There's a couple.

  • Renewable, sustainable thinking/ concepts, and collaborations between artists.
  • (There is) a real interest in architecture, particularly, in Palm Springs on mid century, modern architecture. And really an increasing focus on this area sort of being the highlight of innovative architecture. There's even a modern week in Palm Springs with a week of modern architecture events. It's pretty cool.
  • Especially in film, I'm seeing more cultural awareness of the desert. I think more and more people are starting to film and write about the desert and this isn't just limited to this region, there's (an interest in) people.
  • I think music is probably the strongest one that I pick up on. I think that with music festivals and the music scene, a lot of musicians are really just finding ... this desert area to be a place to have little festivals, and concerts and events.

Joshua Tree Music Festival. Photo by desert-dweller.

What's going on this weekend in the Inland Empire? What exhibit or event do you recommend to the Artbound audience?

The short film festival.

Palm Springs International ShortFest at Camelot Theatres (June 19 - June 25)

"Shanghai Love Market" by director Craig Rosenthal will screen at the festival.

The largest festival for short films in the United States, the Palm Springs International ShortFest & Film Market, will feature 323 films, including 50 world premieres, 63 North American premieres and 21 premieres from the United States. The 18th edition of the festival will be categorized into 53 programs based on genre.

2300 East Baristo Road, Palm Springs, CA 92262, 800-898-7256

Top Image by Michele Ursino

About the Author

Melody Soto is a journalist living in the San Fernando Valley.
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